The farming community rallied together during bad weather and Covid-19 restrictions to mark a record-breaking year for the Big Farmland Bird Count.
More than 2,500 counts were submitted – a 65% increase on 2020 figures – during this year’s scheme which asked farmers and land managers to spend 30 minutes recording the species they saw on their land from February 5 to 21.
A total of 25 species from the Red List for Birds of Conservation Concern were recorded in this year’s count, with eight appearing in the 25 most frequently seen species list. Of these, Starlings, Fieldfare, Lapwing and Linnet were the four most abundant red-listed species recorded, with over 112,000 spotted in total, which equates to 22% of all the birds counted.
The five most abundant birds counted were woodpigeons, starling, rooks, fieldfare and chaffinch. A total of 190,000 were seen, making up over 37% of the total number of birds recorded.
The land area covered by the count has more than doubled to over a million hectares and 81% more birds have been counted this year by more than 700 additional volunteers.
The count, organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), is a simple way for the farming community to assess the natural capital on farm, an increasing requirement under the government’s Environmental Land Management Scheme, and to chart the effects of any conservation they carry out.
Mark Tufnell, CLA’s Deputy President, has taken part in the count every year since it launched in 2014.
“I am absolutely delighted to hear that 2,500 farmers and land managers, including many CLA members, took part in this year’s count, especially given the bad weather and lockdown restrictions.
“It’s encouraging to see news that eight red-listed species appearing on the most frequently seen list, demonstrating how the increase in biodiversity and implementing conservation methods helps reverse declines in wildlife habitats.
“At Calmsden, we saw 16 different species of farmland bird with chaffinches being the most prevalent (28 in number) and it was exciting to see a healthy number of yellow hammers (8) and corn buntings (6) along with a grey partridge.”
GWCT’s Dr Roger Draycott said: “We could not be more delighted with the response to this year’s GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count. Despite much of the country being blanketed in snow during the count, participation has shot up, with 2,500 counts returned, representing a 65% increase in the number of counts submitted compared to 2020, which was also a record year.”
“All of this helps us to build a detailed national picture of the state of Britain’s farmland birds, allowing us to better understand what is really going on in our countryside. It clearly shows that farmers, land managers and gamekeepers care for the land they work and, given that they look after 71% of all the land in the UK, that is extremely good news for the future of our treasured bird species.”
Land managers from around the UK took part in the 2021 count. Surveys were undertaken in every county of England and across much of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, with Norfolk topping the leader board with 189 submissions and Lincolnshire in second place with 131.
The average farm size of those taking part was 1,027 acres. 48% of participants were in agri-environment schemes, demonstrating their long-term commitment to environmental management. 39% provide some form of extra support for birds, through growing bird seed mixes or by winter feeding.
The CLA is among a number of rural organisations which supports the count annually.
For more information, visit www.bfbc.org.uk